Lower Merion Commissioners Reject Use of Eminent Domain in Historic Ardmore Business District
[March 24, 2006] The Lower Merion (PA) Board of Commissioners voted 12-0 on March 22 not to use the power of eminent domain to acquire "any of the particular properties in the Ardmore Redevelopment Area solely for the purpose of private enterprise, development and gain." The passage of this resolution was made possible, in part, by the recent election of five new commissioners who publicly opposed the use of eminent domain to take ten properties in the village of Ardmore's historic commercial district along Lancaster Avenue.
The controversial redevelopment plan is opposed by local and regional historic preservationists (including the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and the Save Ardmore Coalition), local civic organizatons, and many of the shop owners on Lancaster Avenue whose historic buildings would have been demolished to make way for a large, new mixed-use project to be built by as-yet identified private developer.
The proposed private development along Lancaster Avenue is part of a larger redevelopment plan centered around Ardmore's commuter rail station. Although that larger plan has many commendable goals, the demolition of two blocks of commercial buildings - that have been designated as historic by the historic commission - in Ardmore's business district was thought unnecessary by many, including the Urban Land Institute, an outside consultant organization brought in by the township to independently assess the redevelopment plan. (For more on this story, see www.saveardmorecoalition.org.)
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of local government in Connecticut to "take" private property by eminent domain for the purpose of redevelopment by for-profit interests has resulted in a backlash across the country. Many states have passed legislation outlawing the use of eminent domain for such purposes. In Pennsylvania, such legislation (Senate Bill 0881; click here to see the text of the bill) is awaiting passage by both houses.